"Fighting is not what we thought it was."
Mixed Martial Arts
— Jim Brown, UFC 1
is a combat sport that incorporates techniques from a wide range of other combat sports and martial arts styles, with the three basic pillars of the sport being striking, wrestling and submission grappling. Thus, the name "mixed martial arts" refers to the mix of techniques used in competition. It is a relatively new sport, still suffering from growing pains, and currently haunted by a great deal of misconception. The "major league" and most popular promotion of the sport is currently the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Though similar sports have existed at certain points throughout history, most notably in the Greek Olympic sport Pankration, modern mixed martial arts began with the creation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship by Rorion Gracie and Art Davie in 1993. The event was billed as a no-holds-barred tournament straight out of Bloodsport
to determine which martial art style was "the best." Could Kung Fu beat Karate? Could boxing beat wrestling? These questions would be answered inside a chain-link enclosed "Octagon". Behind the scenes, however, the event was masterminded by the Gracies, a Brazilian clan of martial artists who had developed a style of submission grappling called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) that they believed could defeat any style. The event was intended to showcase the effectiveness of BJJ.
The Gracies entered their youngest adult member, 27-year-old Royce, into the tournament. He was not the most decorated BJJ practitioner of the family and was also the smallest fighter in the competition. The family intended to prove that BJJ techniques could be used to overpower physically stronger opponents. Royce won the competition easily by tackling his opponents and quickly rolling them into submission holds, forcing them to "tap out" and concede defeat. Most of his opponents were ignorant of submission grappling and could not defend themselves when they were taken to the ground. Reactions to BJJ were mixed. Viewers who had expected a bare-knuckle bloodbath were disappointed by the decidedly non-violent style, which usually left both Royce and his opponent mostly uninjured. Others were inspired by the style's effectiveness and giant-killing nature.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship expanded into a series of events with new and returning fighters. Royce won several more tournaments before differences of opinion over how the UFC should be run led the Gracies and co-owner Art Davie to sell their shares of the company to the promoters, Semaphore Entertainment Group. Though Gracie's departure left the SEG-led UFC without their marquee star, other fighters rose up to fill his place, including a number of American submission wrestlers. These new fighters had researched previous events to learn which techniques were truly effective in the octagon and which were not. Over time, fighters learned to cross-train in the most effective styles, studying BJJ as well as wrestling and various striking techniques. Howard Rosenberg, a television critic, coined the term "mixed martial arts" to describe the new hybrid style.
The perceived violence of the fledgling sport led Arizona Senator John McCain to famously dub it "human cockfighting." McCain sent letters to all 50 US state governors urging them to outlaw the sport, and soon 36 states passed laws banning "no holds barred fighting." As viewership declined, SEG instituting more safety measures to make the promotion more akin to a combat sport that focused on individual achievement rather than a no-holds-barred contest between styles. They dropped the tournament format and worked with the California and New Jersey State Athletic Boards to draw up a strict rule-set emphasizing fighter safety, which became known as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.
Hope returned with the entrance of the Fertitta brothers, a pair of Las Vegas billionaires whose family owns the Station line of casinos. Forming the company Zuffa (Italian for "brawl") with their close friend Dana White, the brothers bought the UFC and continued the efforts to legitimize the sport. Their crowning achievement was creating The Ultimate Fighter
, a reality show tournament showcasing up-and-coming mixed martial artists competing for a contract with the UFC. The first season aired on Spike TV right after WWE Raw
, putting mixed martial arts into millions of homes. The season finale, aired live on Spike, featured a now-legendary bout between light heavyweight finalists Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar. The electrifying bout is often credited as the most significant fight in MMA history and earned the UFC a legion of new fans. As the UFC grew, the sport of MMA spread out across the world to a number of upstart promotions.
In Japan, the sport of MMA took a concurrent but separate evolution, with origins in a form of Professional Wrestling
called "shoot wrestling." Founded by Belgian wrestler Karl Gotch
, the style incorporates both real submission wrestling techniques as well as striking in a hybrid style similar to MMA. Promotions like the Universal Wrestling Federation
and its offspring celebrated occasionally real fights among their worked cards, and before the creation of the UFC, the UWF descendants of Pancrase and Shooto were already putting on hybrid fighting shows that had largely phased out pre-determined outcomes. Pancrase shoot wrestling champion Ken Shamrock
participated in the first UFC event. As the popularity of MMA began to rise, the popularity of Japanese shoot wrestling promotions also enjoyed a bump. The PRIDE Fighting Championship (PRIDE FC) was created using an MMA-style rule set to take advantage of the new phenomenon. The promotion's roster included foreign mixed martial artists, Olympic judoka, traditional martial artists, and a number of popular Japanese professional wrestlers. A heated rivalry between UFC and Pride developed over several years before allegations of racketeering and Yakuza
ties forced Pride out of business in 2006. The UFC bought all rights to Pride and dismantled it, taking some of its best fighters into their own roster.
With the popularity of MMA on the rise, a number of other rival promotions have risen up in the past few years. However, nearly all major promotions have either gone out of business or been bought by the UFC, giving it a stranglehold on the sport. The organization has enjoyed mainstream success by signing a contract with Fox to air live bouts on network television. They continue to air pay-per-view events about twice per month. The FX channel will air future seasons of The Ultimate Fighter
. Outside of the UFC, Bellator events have becomes Spike TV's new source for MMA. NBC Sports Network currently airs the World Series of Fighting. AXStv covers small promotions and provides regular analysis of the sport on Inside MMA
. ESPN covers the sport with MMA Live
, which often features current professional fighters giving commentary.
Due to the participation of the Gracies, the first UFC event had its roots in the Brazilian tradition of "vale tudo" (literally, "anything goes"), meaning a fight with hardly any rules at all. Modern MMA, however, is a safety-conscious sport with a large number of rules and regulations. Most promotions operate under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.
Competition features a much wider array of legal techniques than other combat sports, but there are also many fouls and illegal actions. Fighters are generally prohibited from grabbing the cage or ropes as well as their opponent's hair, trunks, and gloves. Fighters cannot strike certain parts of the body, such as the spine, throat, eyes, groin, and the back of the head. Some types of strikes are prohibited, such as headbutts, while others are legal only in certain circumstances. For example, kicking or kneeing the head of a downed opponent is usually illegal in American MMA. Standard competition lasts for three rounds of five minutes each, with five rounds for most main events. Judging in America is based on the ten-point must system of boxing.
Fights can end by knockout, referee stoppage, or submission. Unlike boxing, the fight does not pause when a combatant falls to the floor. Thus, if a fighter gets knocked down, he must continue to defend himself as his opponent continues to attack him. The referee is vitally important in deciding when a fighter can no longer defend himself and calling a stop to the fight. For this reason, technical knockouts due to referee stoppage are much more common than a straight KO. If a fighter is not "intelligently defending" himself, even if he is not taking very much damage, the referee can stop the fight in the interest of fighter safety. If a fighter is placed in a submission hold or decides at any time that he wishes to surrender, he must "tap out" on the mat or his opponent's body to stop the fight. If the fighter's hands are tied up, he can also verbally submit.
Fighters wear small four or five-ounce fingerless gloves that protect their hands but still allow their fingers to grip for various grappling techniques. No shoes or complete foot coverings are allowed. Fights take place in a modified boxing ring or cage of various sizes and shapes. The cage is designed with grappling in mind, as it prevents opponents from falling through or getting entangled in the ropes. Almost all American MMA promotions use some version of a cage. Japanese MMA has traditionally used rings due to the influence of professional wrestling, though cages are gaining popularity in major promotions.
Rules vary slightly between promotions. Japanese promotions have traditionally differed the most from the Unified Rules, such as by disallowing elbow strikes but allowing kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent. Some Japanese promotions handle rounds and judging slightly differently as well. For example, Sengoku judges the whole fight instead of round-by-round, and DREAM splits the fight into two rounds of 10 minutes and 5 minutes. Women's bouts in all countries vary from three-minute to five-minute rounds depending on the promotion, though there is a growing movement in support of standardized five-minute rounds. The Strikeforce promotion was the first to hold women's bouts with five-minute rounds.
Promotions following the Unified Rules use standardized weight classes ranging from Flyweight at 125 lbs up to Super-Heavyweight at over 265 lbs. The UFC hosts fights from all weight classes except Super Heavyweight. Japanese promotions tend to use slightly different classes and names. Competitors must weigh in the day before an event and not exceed their class's maximum weight in order to qualify for the fight. Just like other sports involving weight classes, "weight cutting" is a common tactic to gain a size advantage. Fighters will severely dehydrate themselves in the days leading up to the weigh-in to lower their weight down to the limit, then spend the rest of the day rehydrating back to their normal weight. This allows fighters to compete in weight classes that are up to 20 lbs lighter than what they truly weigh on the day of the fight. Extreme weight cutting is far less common in Japanese promotions, leading many fighters to appear undersized for their weight class.
Mixed martial arts began as a competition between pure styles and evolved into a hybrid style of the most effective techniques. Three major disciplines have risen to the top as the essential skills for any mixed martial artist:
- Stand-Up Striking: All bouts begin with both fighters standing, so it is important for fighters to have at least some knowledge of stand-up technique; boxing and various forms of kickboxing are popular base disciplines for striking. Muay Thai, or "Thai boxing," is a popular discipline for its use of knees and elbows. However, striking in MMA must be modified from its pure stylistic roots to accommodate the possibility of grappling and takedowns.
- Wrestling: Wrestling enables fighters to dictate where the fight takes place. Fighters use wrestling to take their opponent to the ground, keep their opponent on the ground, and resist their opponents' takedowns. Greco-Roman and collegiate freestyle wrestling are popular background disciplines. Wrestling is generally considered the most important pure style for competition, and mixed martial artists with strong wrestling backgrounds are common. Judo is also prized for its effective throws and transitions to grappling.
- Grappling: When a fight goes to the ground, a strong background in BJJ or other submission grappling style is often necessary to apply or defend against submission holds. Common submissions used in competition include various chokes, armlocks, and leglocks. The predominant art in this field has been Brazilian jiu-jitsu thanks to the UFC and its influences, but it has also seen styles like shoot wrestling, sambo and judo.
An MMA bout is a three-dimensional sport that can take place on three different playing fields:
- On the Feet: Each fight begins on the feet. While both fighters are separated and standing, fighters can either attempt to strike, attempt to clinch, or attempt a takedown. Due to the threat of kicks, fighters stand farther away from each other than boxers do. Fighters also must stand more flat-footing to maintain their balance should their opponent attempt to shoot in for a takedown attempt. To get his opponent off balance, a fighter will usually set up a takedown by throwing strikes before shooting in.
- In the Clinch: When two fighters are grappling while standing, they are in the clinch. From here, each fighter can either strike his opponent, try to take him down to the mat, or attempt to push him away and separate. Wrestling is very important in the clinch to maintain your balance and control your opponent. Takedowns from the clinch usually take the form of trips, throws, and slams. Striking from the clinch is called "dirty boxing." The Muay Thai clinch, sometimes called "the plum," in which the back of the opponent's head is controlled with both hands, is often used in conjunction with knee strikes. Fighters in a clinch usually try to take their opponent down to get a dominant position on the ground. It is also possible to place your opponent in a standing submission hold from the clinch.
- On the Mat: When both fighters are on the ground, the fighter on top is said to have "top position." The fighter in top position must use his submission grappling skills to achieve a dominant position on his opponent and either strike or apply a submission hold. The more dominant his position, the easier it is for him to overcome his opponent's defenses. The fighter on bottom must use his grappling skills to either sweep his opponent and place himself in top position, or he must put himself in the most defensive position he can on the bottom. From the strongest defensive position, called "full guard," the fighter on bottom can threaten with submission holds of his own.
There are a number of classic strategies used by fighters to emphasize their strengths or to capitalize on weaknesses in their opponent's game.
- Sprawl and Brawl: A fighter with good striking and wrestling will often attempt to use his wrestling to prevent the fight from going to the ground and force his opponent into a striking contest on the feet. Thus, the fighter "sprawls" whenever his opponent shoots in on him, and forces his opponent to "brawl" with him. Fighters often use this strategy to nullify the advantages of a submission specialist. This style was popularized by UFC poster boy Chuck Liddell.
- Ground and Pound: A strong wrestler will often attempt to take his opponent to the ground and achieve a dominant top position. Rather than attempt submissions, he will focus on ground strikes to inflict damage while his opponent is less able to defend himself. This is an effective strategy to take stand-up strikers out of their game. It is also useful to soften up an opponent and reduce his ability to defend against submissions. However, it can be a risky strategy against quality grapplers who can still threaten submissions from the bottom. The "GNP" style was invented by early MMA pioneer Mark Coleman, but made famous by UFC light heavyweight Tito Ortiz.
- Lay and Pray: This is a disparaging term for an overly cautious strategy in which the fighter controls his opponent on the ground by maintaining top position, but does not put up significant offense. In effect, the fighter is "laying" on top of his opponent and "praying" that his top position will earn him enough points for a decision victory. However, if a referee believes that the top fighter is not making enough effort to improve his position or to earn a stoppage, he can restart the fighters on their feet. There are disparaging terms for similarly cautious and boring strategies occurring in the standing and clinch phase of MMA; Stand and Bland for a fighter jabbing his way to a decision (also known as 'point fighting'), and Wall and Stall for a fighter pressing his opponent against the cage but not mounting significant offense.
- Pulling Guard: When a fighter believes that he has a sizable advantage in the submission game, he may attempt a takedown called "pulling guard," which pulls his opponent to the ground on top of him and into his full guard. While the fighter is giving away top position, he puts himself in a position where he can threaten with submissions or eventually sweep to gain top position. Fighters who wish to avoid a stand-up exchange will sometimes pull guard as a desperation move, accepting the sacrifice of top position in an effort to get the fight to the ground.
Mixed Martial Arts has yet to completely shed its "human cockfighting" reputation. MMA is still illegal in three US states, and in some western nations, owing to lingering perceptions that the sport is a barbaric freak-show with no rules. Common misconceptions about modern MMA include:
"There are no rules in mixed martial arts"
Even the very first UFC events, which were billed
as having "no rules," did in fact have several rules. Combatants had to obey the directions of the referee, and biting and gouging were disallowed. Modern MMA is a fully regulated sport with a long list of rules and prohibitions summarized above. The main difference between MMA and other martial arts is that MMA rules are primarily directed at concerns of combatant safety, rather than limiting the general fighting techniques available to the combatants. Fouling an opponent or failing to obey the rules will result in point deduction or disqualification. Cuts or other injuries that prevent a fighter from adequately defending himself can also cause a stop to a bout for fighter safety. Referees in America work for state athletic commissions and not for the promotion holding the event to maintain their impartiality. Several high-profile bouts have ended by disqualification or no contest due to fouls.
"Mixed martial artists fight in cages like animals"
Mixed martial arts bouts are held in either cages or rings depending on the promotion. Cages are more popular in the US due to the influence of the UFC, while rings are more popular in Japan due to the influence of kickboxing and pro wrestling. Cages have a stigma attached to them because they are associated with animal fighting or gladiatorial combat, in which unwilling participants are locked inside an arena and forced to fight. In MMA, however, cages are used because the horizontal ropes of a ring do not effectively prevent grappling opponents from falling out of the arena. Grappling opponents can slip through or become entangled in the ropes, forcing the referee to pause the bout and restart the fighters in the center of the ring. Cages can thus prevent pauses in the action by providing a more effective barrier. Fighters use different tactics depending on the type and shape of the arena. Fans are generally divided as to which arena facilitates more entertaining matches and provides the best visibility.
"Mixed martial arts is a brutal bloodsport"
There is no getting around the fact that MMA is a violent combat sport. Many fights have resulted in concussions, bloody gashes and broken bones. There have been three reported deaths at MMA events, though none in any major promotion. Critics decry the sport as barbaric savagery that will corrupt our youth and make society more violent. However, these critics apparently ignore the violence and potential for injuries in other sports such as American football and boxing. Early American football was almost outlawed by President Theodore Roosevelt for its perceived savage nature, yet its current form is considered a hallmark of the nation's culture. Ultimately, any strenuous physical contest carries some degree of danger, even benign sports such as running. To be fair to MMA, one must prove that the sport is more violent or dangerous than other mainstream sports by an unacceptable margin.
Arguably, mixed martial arts is less violent on average than boxing. Boxing focuses exclusively on striking, while MMA includes the use of wrestling and submission grappling. Like any strenuous physical contest, grappling can result in injury, but it generally causes much less trauma than strikes. Grappling-intensive bouts sometimes end with neither fighter having landed a single significant strike. Furthermore, the striking aspect of MMA is arguably less damaging to fighters over the long term than boxing. Due to the use of smaller gloves, MMA fighters are more likely to be staggered by a single punch, whereas boxers with larger gloves must rely on an accumulation of punches to overwhelm an opponent, resulting in more head trauma overall. Also, MMA fighters are not allowed a knockdown count to recover. If an MMA fighter is ever unable to intelligently defend himself, the fight is immediately ended. Staggered boxers on the other hand are given a chance to regain their feet and continue fighting, resulting in more damage. Overall, boxing is no less violent or dangerous to fighter health than mixed martial arts.
To say that mixed martial arts is a bad influence on society ignores the fact that aggressive, competitive sports are already thought to have a positive effect on their participants. American public schools offer wrestling and football programs for their students. Outreach programs teach boxing and traditional martial arts to at-risk youths to channel their energies in a positive direction. Advocates for these sports praise their effectiveness in teaching physical fitness, discipline, and healthy competition. Mixed martial arts is simply an amalgamation of sports and disciplines that are already deemed beneficial for the development of our youth.
"Mixed martial artists are unskilled streetfighters"
Public perception of the average mixed martial artist is that of a professional bar brawler. Several well-known MMA fighters, such as David "Tank" Abbot and Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson did in fact have a background as actual street fighters but have achieved only limited success in professional competition. In reality, fighters must cross-train extensively in a variety of disciplines to achieve any high-level success in the sport. Common background disciplines include wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, judo and karate. As time goes on and the sport grows, the next generation of fighters will feature a greater number of purists who began training the sport at a young age rather than transferring in from another discipline.
Appearances in media
Due to the sport's growing popularity, as well as its occasionally lurid reputation, mixed martial arts has been portrayed in a number of media:
- An Italian commercial features an MMA fighter seemingly defeated outside of the cage, expressing shock that something was "so strong." It turns out that he's talking about the Extra Strong Mint Golia candies that he just ate.
- Anderson Silva is fairly well-known by the mainstream public in Brazil and has been featured in a number of commercials, including a Burger King ad that makes fun of his high-pitched voice.
- Pride fighters endorsed a number of Japanese products at the height of the promotion's popularity. Many of the commercials were quite bizarre.
- Never Back Down: An MMA-meets-The O.C. style film, portraying a Florida high school where backyard MMA competitions have become fashionable. The film is surprisingly faithful to the actual techniques of MMA in spite of its silly premise.
- Redbelt portrays an MMA organization as part of its main plot. The film is written and directed by David Mamet, who practices BJJ but does not follow MMA. Though UFC champ Randy Couture appeared in a small acting role, Mamet's MMA consultants had very little involvement in the modern sport, and the film's depiction suffers greatly. The film features an out-of-date and villainized version of the UFC as well as a number of highly implausible plot details.
- Cradle 2 the Grave: Jet Li runs afoul of an underground MMA competition, which features several UFC fighters in cameos.
- In the French film Banlieue 13, one of the villains watches a UFC fight featuring David "Tank" Abbot. The film probably intended the sport's bad reputation to help portray the villain as a thug, and the world as half empty.
- In Pineapple Express, Dale's girlfriend Angie has her motel television tuned to a UFC fight in the foreground as they discuss their relationship over the phone.
- Fighting features a New York underground fighting circuit that is based somewhat on MMA. The main villain of the film seems to be a professional MMA fighter in addition to an underground champ. He posts videos of his seedy MMA fights online, obviously reminiscent of Kimbo Slice's YouTube brawls. The film features former Strikeforce champ Cung Le as the Chinatown fighter.
- Warrior focuses on two brothers who compete in a 16-contestant, single-elimination MMA tournament. The film features a fairly detailed and realistic MMA setting, a number of real MMA personalities in the cast, and even a few Expys of some others.
- Various documentaries about MMA fighters have been made, most of them tearjerkers.
- Jens Pulver: Driven is a documentary about former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver preparing for his fight against Javier Vazquez, and his rough childhood and how his near-poverty forces him to continue fighting long after the sport passed him by.
- The Smashing Machine: The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr details the life and career of MMA pioneer Mark Kerr, and his addiction to narcotics spurred by the pain of his many fight injuries. It also details the later career of Mark Coleman, a former UFC heavyweight champion seeking a return to his winning ways in the Japanese PRIDE FC.
- Once I Was A Champion is a biography about the late Evan Tanner, former UFC middleweight champion.
- Fightville is a behind-the-scenes look at the regional MMA circuit, featuring UFC fighters Dennis Poirier and Tim Credeur.
- Like Water is a documentary about UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
- Never Surrender (2009) is a movie about MMA with the gimmick of featuring performances by a who's-who of MMA stars, including GSP, Rampage Jackson, Anderson Silva, BJ Penn and Heath Herring.
- Beatdown is a low budget film about cagefighting featuring a supporting performance by UFC fighter Michael Bisping as well as bit parts by Bobby Lashley and Heath Herring.
- In Alex Cross, the villain fights in an MMA match to show how brutal and evil he is. The fight takes place in a warehouse, and the shady promoter allows the "champ" to fight an unknown opponent outside of his weight class on a few minutes notice.
- UFC veteran Seth Petruzelli appears under his nickname of Silverback in Rockabilly Zombie Weekend. While the character's background was not explored, Seth demonstrates several of his MMA moves and is given a short fight scene against a mob of zombies.
- Here Comes The Boom stars Kevin James (a long-time MMA fan) as a 42-year-old high school science teacher (and former collegiate wrestler) who takes up MMA as a means to fund the school's music program. There are several notable MMA cameos, including Chael Sonnen, Joe Rogan and Jason "Mayhem" Miller along with supporting performances by Bas Rutten and Mark DellaGrotte.
- Undisputed II Last Man Standing, starring Michael Jay White and Scott Adkins, features a prison fighting system based in MMA. The fights are portrayed with some realism, albeit in a overtly spectacular choreography. Its sequel, Undisputed III: Redemption, follows its line, but adding more traditional martial arts film stunts to the mix.
- Iron Man 2: Tony claims he's using this in a sparring match with Happy Hogan. He's supposed to be boxing. Happy just retorts that he's cheating.
- The reality show The Ultimate Fighter focuses on amateur or small-time professional MMA fighters aspiring to be signed into the UFC. Each season is structured as a tournament between two teams of contestants, each coached by a veteran UFC fighter. A live finale fight card determines the winner of the tournament, who receives a UFC contract. So far, three contestants of the show have gone on to become UFC champions in their weight class, though all lost their first title defense. The popularity of the first season is widely credited as a major factor in pushing the UFC and MMA into the mainstream.
- Iron Ring was a reality show on Black Entertainment Television loosely based on The Ultimate Fighter. The show divided its contestants into several teams, each led by a celebrity "coach," most of whom were actually rappers. The show was criticized heavily by the MMA community for the crass way in which the spotlight was placed on the egos of the celebrity coaches rather than the fighters' efforts and for its extremely loose adherence to the rules, conventions, and discipline of professional MMA.
- TapouT was a reality show hosted by the three founders of the TapouT clothing line, which is a major sponsor of MMA fighters. In each episode, the company founders "Mask," "Skyskrape," and "Punkass" would travel by bus to meet an up-and-coming MMA fighter to sponsor him and follow him through his next fight. Whether the fighter won his bout or not, the TapouT crew would inevitably applaud his determination and continue to sponsor him. Much of each episode was also dedicated to the hosts' wacky hijinks. With the death of Charles "Mask" Lewis, no new episodes are expected for the future.
- Bully Beatdown was a reality show on MTV hosted by the colorful middleweight fighter Jason "Mayhem" Miller. The premise has one or more bullied individuals getting their revenge on a bully by putting him in a cage against a professional MMA fighter for two rounds, each with the possibility of earning up to $5,000. The first round is grappling only, with the bully losing $1,000 each time he submits. The second round is kickboxing, with the bully losing all $5,000 if he cannot survive the round. All of the bully's losses go to his victim(s). The show is based around the expectation that the bully will get beaten up and humiliated, earning very little money. Mayhem provides over-the-top commentary throughout. The second season added a Daily Show-esque sit-down interview between Mayhem and the bully. The third season included a female bully in one episode and Mayhem himself fighting a bully in another.
- In an episode of Friends, Monica's boyfriend, played by Jon Favreau, dedicates himself to becoming a UFC fighter. David "Tank" Abbot has a cameo as his opponent.
- In an episode of Entourage, Johnny Drama inadvertently gets on the bad side of then-UFC champ Chuck Liddell. He attends a UFC fight and is brow-beaten into entering the cage and humiliating himself, but the whole thing is just a prank by Pauly Shore.
- In a second season episode of The Fixer, John Mercer infiltrates a gang of criminals who run underground cage fights. He ultimately enters a lethal cage match himself. The scene is presented as a seedy underworld populated by violent crooks, rather than a legitimate sport.
- An episode of NewsRadio had Joe Garelli, played by Joe Rogan, as a UFC combatant, which is particularly Danza-ish due to Rogan's job as color commentator for the UFC. An exciting new style of combat is discovered in this episode: Tickle-style.
- In the fourth season premiere of True Blood, Tara is revealed to be an amateur mixed martial artist. She fights her lesbian lover in a match and wins via armbar.
- One episode of Leverage involved going after a MMA promoter who had doped an up-and-coming fighter who refused to throw his fight.
- Deadliest Warrior brought in the famed Chuck Liddell for their first episode to test out the cestus gauntlets and Roman scissor (basically a half-circle blade on a gauntlet). A season 2 episode brought in Rashad Evans for Alexander the Great's team (against Attila the Hun) to demonstrate the lethal capabilities of Pankration.
- An episode of Law and Order had a case about a murdered MMA fighter (played by Forrest Griffin).
- The new version of Hawaii Five-0 had an MMA themed episode with Chuck Liddell and Bruce Buffer cameos.
- Comic Book Men had retired MMA fighter (and now comic book author) Nate Quarry stop by the shop to pimp his comic book, and later invited the boys to his gym where two of his fighters had an impromptu bout dressed up as Jay and Silent Bob.
- Fight Master is Bellator's answer to The Ultimate Fighter. It divides 16 fighters into four teams, each headed by a celebrity coach: Randy Couture, Greg Jackson, Frank Shamrock and Joe Warren.
- The Mythbusters episode "Coffin Punch" dealt with whether or not someone could actually, as might be inferred from the title, punch their way out of a coffin. Then-UFC fighter Jon Fitch was featured and was measured as having 1,500 pounds of force (6672 Newtons) in his punches despite lying on his back and having only three inches of movement.
- The NCIS: Los Angeles episode "Hand-To-Hand" has Sam Hanna going undercover at an MMA gym.
- Many early western MMA fighters moved into professional wrestling because MMA was not paying enough. Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Don Frye and Tank Abbot are some of the most notable examples. Their personas were based on their MMA background. Some fighters, including Josh Barnett and Don Frye, perform on the Japanese circuit while pursuing MMA at the same time.
- The Japanese pro-wrestling circuit blurs the line between show matches and legitimate shoot matches, often showing both on the same card. Many Japanese pro-wrestlers, particularly in the days of PRIDE, transitioned into straight MMA fighters. Wrestling legend Antonio Inoki was an early pioneer of MMA with his famous match against Muhammad Ali. The most memorable Japanese wrestler of the modern age is Kazushi Sakuraba, who earned the name "the Gracie Hunter" for besting several Gracie fighters in MMA.
- The Undertaker is an MMA fan and has incorporated moves based on real MMA submissions into his arsenal. Both he and Bill Goldberg have stated in interviews that if MMA had been around (or in Goldberg's case, more popular) when they began their careers, they likely would have gone into it instead of wrestling.
- Several video games have been released under the UFC brand:
- Ultimate Fighting Championship was the first UFC game, released in 2000 for the Dreamcast, PlayStation, and Game Boy Color. The game was publisher Crave Entertainment's first big title and received fairly good reviews.
- UFC: Tapout was released for Xbox in 2002. The game received good to fair reviews and inexplicably features rapper Ice-T as an unlockable character. A sequel was released in 2003 with an updated fighter roster, but few other additions.
- UFC Throwdown was also released in 2002 for the PS2 and Gamecube. The game features a number of hidden characters, including UFC employees Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta, and Bruce Buffer. The late TapouT clothing line founder and MMA advocate Charles "Mask" Lewis served as a model along with Tito Ortiz on the game's cover.
- UFC Sudden Impact was released in 2004 for the PS2. Published by Global Star Software rather than Crave, it received poor reviews. The cover featured fighter Phil Baroni kneeing Charles "Mask" Lewis and also featured "The Mask" as an unlockable character.
- UFC 2009 Undisputed was released in 2009 and published by THQ. It is the first UFC game released after the company's breakout success following The Ultimate Fighter series and has sold over 1 million units. The game features an extensive roster of UFC fighters, though some had already been cut by the time of the game's release; UFC 2010 came out the next year, but was hurt by lackluster sales. UFC Undisputed 3, which debuted in early 2012, reviewed and sold fairly well, but did not manage to be the big earner that studio THQ needed it to be.
- Electronic Arts released an MMA game prominently featuring the Strikeforce promotion and its associated fighters in direct competition with the UFC's game. UFC President Dana White declared soon after the announcement of the game that he was "at war" with EA, citing their dismissive attitude toward MMA when the UFC approached them to publish Undisputed, and going so far as to say that any fighter who appeared in the EA game would be blacklisted from the UFC. This proved to be an empty (or more accurately, irrelevant) threat however, given that Zuffa purchased Strikeforce in 2011. Reviews of the game were mixed and it suffered from weak sales.
- At E3 2012, the UFC announced that their relationship with THQ had ended and that the next iteration of a licensed UFC video game would be made by Electronic Arts. EA Sports UFC was released on June 17, 2014, receiving mixed but mostly positive reviews. The game is perhaps most notable for including Bruce Lee as a playable fighter.
Tropes associated with Mixed Martial Arts
Tropes associated with Mixed Martial Arts are: